January 2007

Real Living Associates Living Real

Author: Paul deVere

What do you get when you mix a little (homemade) Cabernet Bordeaux, a passion for travel, and two Hilton Head Island real estate agents? The answer: Dino DiNenna and Ashley Lashbrook, members of the Real Living in the Low Country real estate company, a franchise of Real Living, Inc., now the fourth largest real estate firm in the United States.

DiNenna and Lashbrook market themselves as the HHI Team (www.hhiteam.com), under the Real Living franchise, putting emphasis on their local knowledge. An “almost” northern Virginia native (He was actually born in Washington, D.C.), DiNenna moved to the island in 1993 after a brief visit. “I just knew I had to be here,” he said.

Atypical in the real estate industry, where agents often enter the business from other walks of life, DiNenna got his “junior” real estate license while still in high school. When he turned 18, he earned his official real estate license while attending George Mason University and, within months, became the top producer in his office. Among his many real estate credentials, he is a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), a partner in the Real Living franchise and the company’s business manager.

Born in Montreal, Lashbrook, moved to the island, attended Hilton Head Prep and has spent most of her life here. “I really enjoy showing the local spots to out-of-towners, and introducing them to the island. They are usually pretty amazed,” she said.

Lashbrook is an e-PRO Certified Realtor. Through a rigorous certification program, she is trained to use Internet technology to provide buyers and sellers with virtually instant information about changes or opportunities in the real estate market. According to Jerry McElroy, Broker-in-Charge of Real Living in the Low Country, “Somewhere between 80 to 85 percent of real estate transactions today originate on the Internet.” Real Living puts a great deal of emphasis on today’s technology to help clients, he explained.

So where does the wine fit into this picture? Back in 2002, Bobby Ogren started the Mario and Luigi’s Lowcountry School of Wine (www.mlwineschool.com), which consists of a yearlong course in wine making. He had already created a similar school, the Sunset Hill Wine School in East Windsor, NJ, moving to the Lowcountry and bringing the concept here. This year, approximately 50 area wine enthusiasts produced over 20 barrels of various types of wine. (That would be over 4800 bottles.) When Ogren passed away in April, 2006, DiNenna was asked to keep the school going.

“Bobby’s brother and his friends in New Jersey, who are co-owners of the school, asked me to help out. I’m now the local guy with the key to Mario and Luigi’s,” said DiNenna, describing the school as more like a club—“a bunch of friends getting together to share their passion for making wine.”

The students do everything from crushing the grapes, which come from California, to bottling the finished product. Lashbrook, who is also one of the students, elaborated, “We even get to design our own labels. Some of the wine is named for participants’ dogs or where they live.”

The wine school leads directly to DiNenna and Lashbrook’s other common interest: travel. Any particular place? “Anywhere,” Lashbrook said. After a moment of thought, she settled on Italy.

The choice of destination seems appropriate for “The HHI Team.” After all, the country boasts 3,000 museums and brought us, among other things, pizza, the typewriter and eyeglasses. Of course, what might interest these Mario and Luigi’s students a little more is that the average Italian consumes 26 gallons of wine per year.


Real Living

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